Donning the Blaugrana: Andres Iniesta ‘El Maestro’
Written by: Manas Pratim Kashyap
The last standing man from the 2006 UCL winning Barcelona team moves on from the Camp Nou.
86:40 read the clock in the game.... and the referee blew his whistle pointing towards the technical area sidelines during the Copa del Rey Final 2018. FC Barcelona were making their final substitution for the night as Denis Suarez waited to come on to replace Andres Iniesta. The whole of Wanda Metropolitano stood still in tears of joy and despair both at the same time, accompanied by unending rounds of standing ovation. This marked the end of an illustrious career in European football. Never ever will Iniesta be seen donning the Blaugrana stripes again after this May.
Being a Man United fan, it’s a bit difficult to rhyme with the emotions of a Barca faithful at this parting moment of one of the greats of the club. However, I would relate Iniesta with Paul Scholes, ‘the shy genius’ of ours.
One fine autumn day in 1996, Jose Antonio and his wife Mari enrolled their 12-year old son into La Masia (FC Barcelona’s world-renowned football school). Now Andres jokingly recalls that day as the worst day of his life. “I cried rivers as I was being separated from my parents.” 22 years hence the little one has carved out a legend in him and ready to depart in the best possible way.
Words won’t suffice to describe the greatness of this Barcelona genius. He was one of a kind, for sure. From Van Gaal’s to Valverde’s Barcelona, Andres was an absolutely indispensable part of the team. He refined and defined the heart and soul of FC Barcelona all these years. In his 16-year long European career, he’s probably won everything that’s there to be won. His 116th-minute goal helped Spain beat The Netherlands to clinch their first ever FIFA World Cup in 2010. Yet this humble personality tries to stay away from the limelight and maintain a low key status. This is greatness.
Tribute To A Legend | 1996 - 2018
They say he made Spain dream, to dream beyond the horizon of their expectations. With four Champions League, eight La Liga honours and a World Cup winners’ medal, he’s made everybody proud. To add to that, Andres has never been red carded in his career spanning over 750 appearances for club and country. This speaks a lot about the subtle character that he possesses.
Just before Barcelona met Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League Final, Sir Alex Ferguson remarked, "He's fantastic. He makes the team work. The way he finds passes, his movement and ability to create space is incredible. He's so important for Barcelona." Such words of appreciation from the rival boss before a game of that magnitude definitely speaks a ton.
This is exactly how it felt when Man United’s famed ‘Class of 92’ departed one after the other. Likewise, this bunch of Barca graduates, viz. Puyol, Valdes, Xavi and now Iniesta leaving, creates a sense of numbness in every Catalunyan's heart. Painful, very painful yet we are left with no other choice. So, after a 5-0 thrashing of Sevilla in the Spanish cup final, the master bows out with the 34th silverware of his career, with the 35th (La Liga 2017/18) to be added soon.
"My only aim was to be a success at this club and I have done that", said a red and teary-eyed legend on said as he bade goodbye to his beloved team.
All good things come to an end, whether you like it or not. Maybe that’s what makes it special. As memories linger in the shadow of greatness, we will remember ‘the discreet genius’ that once adorned the beautiful game. Thanks for your selfless dedication, for putting the team ahead of self and for inspiring a million on and off the pitch. You were an ambassador of the game in its truest sense.
Thank you for everything, good luck and goodbye.
Published: Sat Apr 28, 2018 05:26 PM IST